Strong Core = Strong Body

Three weeks ago, as I was cleaning out my closet, I found an old piece of exercise equipment; my ab wheel. It had been a long time since I had used it, and I was growing tired of doing crunches and leg lifts that would leave me looking bloated. So, I gave it a try. After doing 2 sets of 10 reps, I felt muscles in my abs and upper back I hadn’t felt used in a long time. It felt like I was actually undergoing a transformation rather than just a bit of maintenance work on my body. One week of doing 2 to 3 ab wheel workouts every few days had my body feeling stronger and rejuvenated.

Three weeks later, not only had I visibly lost inches in my waistline, but I noticed other drastic changes as well. My lower back fat had almost completely gone away, my love handles were shrinking to the point where I could wear light t-shirts and see the difference, and my overall torso was showing more muscle definition. Mind you, this was mostly centered around the ab wheel, but combined with other routine exercises, such as resistance training and daily walking, things I had already been doing up until that point.

The visual changes weren’t the only changes that I had noticed. I found that my cardiovascular endurance had improved as well; I had become capable of walking 1 mile within 15 minutes rather than 20, and running up flights of stairs was less physically taxing than it had been in the recent past. My overall energy levels had improved greatly, and I had even experienced less muscle fatigue after long days of work.

What was the difference between now and 3 weeks ago? I was taking care of my core muscles.

As much as some people don’t want to admit, core exercises are important for overall physical strength and health. Now, when I say the “core”, I don’t just mean the abdominal muscles. I mean every part of the torso: the chest muscles, the abdominal muscles, the lower and upper back muscles, the obliques, and everything from the lower neck down to the waistline, from front to back. We as people tend to only worry about the abdominal muscles, since most of modern media seems to be obsessed with six-pack abs. But let it be known: you don’t need to have a six-pack to have a strong core.

Why are core exercises important? In a nutshell, a strong core means a strong foundation for the rest of your body. A strong core takes pressure off of your spine and helps your posture. Also, having a strong abdominal wall helps aid your internal organs, especially your digestive system.

Perhaps the best asset of having a strong core is that it builds a mental and physical chain reaction to the rest of the body when it comes to exercise. When you strengthen your core with a full-motion workout, such as the ab wheel or leg lifts, you not only engage the core, but the limbs as well. In fact, having a strong core makes other exercises, such as push-ups and standing bicep curls, easier to perform. And as I mentioned from my personal experience above, having a strong core helps with overall endurance with cardio workouts, whether you’re jogging, kickboxing, or even cycling. The core is the nucleus of the human anatomy when it comes to motion.

If you’re looking for some basic core exercises, these videos are a good introduction to core exercises.

If you’re looking to start using an ab wheel, here’s a video on proper form when using one.

Chamomile: A Secret Weapon Against Anxiety

Like so many people, I find myself in a fair share of anxiety-inducing situations. I’ve dealt with everything from arrogant co-workers to almost getting hit by a getaway car. (True story.) Others might suppress whatever short-term anxiety they have until it eats them alive. But I’ve chosen methods of self-care to counter whatever anxiety I’m battling. I’ve already discussed with you the benefits of meditation, now I’ll share with you another tool you can use, one that tastes as good as you’ll feel after drinking it: chamomile tea.

Chamomile tea already has a reputation for being a relaxing drink, but that’s only scratching the surface.  The same properties that make chamomile a good drink for bedtime also make it the ideal remedy for reducing anxiety.

Herbalists and medical professionals classify chamomile as a natural herbal sedative. The reason is because the flower is rich in an antioxidant called apigenin, a substance with calming and anti-inflammatory properties. The levels of apigenin in chamomile are strong enough to relax tension in the body, which is a reason that the tea is recommended as a remedy for muscle spasms as well.

Because anxiety builds up physical tension, what you need in order to counter that tension is a relaxant. While certain prescribed remedies can help, chamomile offers a more immediate solution with no toxicity levels. Because it is absent of caffeine, it has been seen to be superior even to green tea when it comes to its calming effects.

As far as brands of chamomile tea go, Celestial Seasonings and Bigelow are two big-name brands that you can trust when it comes to quality.  If you’re looking for a bargain brand, Manasul makes an affordable, yet even more potent, variety of chamomile tea.  The reason Manasul’s brand of chamomile tea is especially strong is because its tea is made from the heart of the chamomile flower, which equals higher concentrations of apigenin, which leads to quicker results when you need to reduce emotional tension and anxiety.

So, the next time you fell as if you’re at the end of your rope, or the world is just hammering away at your patience, take the time to brew yourself a cup of chamomile tea. And take you’re time as you sip it; make every drop count.

Beach Therapy

In my stress relief practices, one of the major things I recommend is to take a trip for yourself, no matter how near or far. This summer, I had made a promise to myself that before the end of August, I’d take a trip to Orchard Beach in The Bronx. Sure enough, Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, I was able to keep that promise.

After taking care of a few personal tasks in the early part of that Saturday, I made my way to the Bx12 local, the main bus line to take to Orchard Beach in the summer. After Labor Day weekend, the bus lines to that beach are discontinued until Memorial Day the following year, so it was my last opportunity to get there this year. Thankfully, I made it to the bus with plenty of time to spare.

The bus ride was unusually dreamlike, with little to no traffic, which is unusual for a holiday weekend. The feeling of pulling up to the beach entrance was a feeling of joy and relief, making it there with 3 hours until closing. I walked through the paved path through the trees, and when I saw the spread of the beach, it was as if I had found a paradise a stone’s throw from the city.

After grabbing a hot dog and a bottled water, I started my walk along the paved path beside the beach, admiring the view of the Long Island Sound as it stretched toward the ocean. I couldn’t help but snap picture after picture of the seagulls as they flew over my head. The further I walked, the less crowded the beach became.

Soon, I found myself compelled to walk on the sand, keeping my sneakers on, and walking as carefully as possible to reduce how much sand could seep into my shoes. It felt good to walk on the beach, feeling the coolness of the wind on my face, the smell of the salt water. I ended up walking so far down the beach, I had made it to the edge.

This was my first time climbing the rocks at the edge of Orchard Beach. I could see the yachts and other boats sailing down the ocean water, the jet skis zooming towards the land. The calm ripple of the ocean waves were so calming, I had to close my eyes and listen. When I slowly opened my eyes, I couldn’t help but look into the distance to my left. I saw two small islands, the Twin Islands, out in the distance. I had to get a closer look.

I found a small, sandy path just beyond the end of the paved walkway, and as I walked that path, I could see a small group of people along the rocky edge. A lone fisherman, a father and son fishing together, two men drinking beers and laughing, and a woman looking off in the distance. Just past the lone fisherman, I could see the Twin Islands perfectly. It was the first time in my life I had seen them. So many people have been to this beach, but so few of them have ever heard of the Twin Islands, let alone seen them. As I snapped pictures, the lone fisherman gave me a thumbs up. Funny thing is, I didn’t notice until days later as I showed my pictures to my co-workers.

As I made my way back to the main entrance, I looked up, and I could see a small rainbow peeking through the clouds. I looked around, and no one else noticed it but me. It was a solitary and special moment as I made my long trek back to the bus, a way to end my trip that I can never forget.

Sitting on the bus as I made my way back to the hectic mayhem of the city, one repeating thought dwelled in my mind: It’s amazing what beauty awaits us if we’re willing to push further beyond the roads paved for us.

Beating Mental Fatigue

Today was a reminder for me about how real mental fatigue can be. There are days where no matter how healthy we are physically, the stress of the day can bear down on you until you’re aching from head to toe. Your muscles ache, your neck is stiff, and you feel like a rusty Tin Man without an oil can. Funny enough, there are metaphorical “oil cans” that can help you cope with and combat the mental fatigue of your day.

One of the easiest ways to combat mental fatigue is to stretch. You don’t have to do any fancy stretching to revive yourself mentally, just stretches as simple as reaching above your head, twisting your torso, or even bending over and letting your arms hang low towards the floor. Stretching eases the tension in your body and stimulates circulation.

Another way is to allow yourself a few minutes to meditate. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, Meditating On The Go, you can relieve stress and mental tension with as little as 3 minutes of meditation. If you’re in an area that’s not exactly optimal for meditation, deep breathing can still help you beat that mental fatigue. (Be sure to read my prior blog entry for some quick meditation tips.)

When all else fails, hydrate. Drinking water helps cool you down and calm you down, and it can help flush out excess sodium that might be elevating your blood pressure, which plays into stress factors. If water isn’t doing the trick, drink some chamomile tea. It’s a natural sedative, and it’s an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety.

There are going to be plenty of stressful days in our lives, but don’t let that stress conquer you. Take a bit of initiative and counter that stress with some relaxation.

Meditating On The Go

For the past two months, I have been working on my first book, a guide to stress management. While I began and continued working on this book, I put several of the methods within it to use, the most prominent method being breathing and meditation. Why meditation? Because if you can close your eyes and breathe, you can meditate.

Many of us who face daily commutes and deadlines can use meditation to calm ourselves down and relax ourselves, easing the built-up tension that the day has heaped upon us. Sadly, not many of us have taken the initiative to learn about basic deep breathing exercises, let alone meditation. It has been said that the most successful people practice meditation, from famous actors to industry moguls. So there is a proven crowd on the benefits of meditating.

One particular challenge that I face during the day is finding time to meditate. While I do make time either after I wake up or before going to sleep, there are times throughout the day where I need to meditate to de-stress and re-focus myself. Being that a positive meditation can take only 5-10 minutes, it’s all a matter of strategy and opportunity. Here are a few key points I’ve adopted for on-the-go meditation that you can practice.

1. Download A Meditation App

This one may be the most convenient way to meditate on the go. Back when CDs were popular, meditation CDs were a go-to. However, the guided meditations on these CDs ranged from 20 to 30 minutes in duration, which leaves a large chance for a meditation to be interrupted. Now and days, meditation apps are a solid go-to for meditating on the go. The most popular meditation apps are Stop, Breathe, & Think, Headspace, and Calm. Each of these apps have a wide variety of meditations with durations from 3 to 10 minutes, allowing you to enjoy a quick meditation or guided breathing on the go, whether you’re riding in a cab or taking your 15-minute break.

2. Add Soft Music To Your Playlist

Before I went the app route for my express meditations, my method was simply to play some soft music from my phone’s playlist in order to get my deep breathing or meditation done. If you’re experienced in meditation, this may be the better route compared to using an app, which is mostly for beginners or people who are experienced but prefer to be guided. Soft music, such as jazz or classical piano, can take the mind to a calmer place, which makes the deep breathing required for meditating even easier. Try to use music without lyrics, so your focus can be on the calming sounds. Meditating to a soft music track can take as little as 4 minutes.

3. Just Do It!

While apps and music are excellent aids to meditating on the go, when all else fails, just close your eyes and breathe. That in itself is the primary key to meditation. As long as you’re able to breathe, you can meditate. Focus on your breaths, the rising and falling of your chest and abdomen as you take each slow, deep breath, and you will be in that deep calming state in no time.

In the end, the motivation for meditation should be the feeling of a calm body and a calm mind. No matter where or how you meditate, when it’s done right, you will feel it.

Greener Pastures

I was born and raised in The Bronx.  I’ve lived here for over 3 decades of my life.  Everything in my life is practically synonymous with this borough, from the early days of hip-hop to the Yankees.  I had met Peter Gunz and DJ Kool Herc in the same summer just walking around my neighborhood.  I loved the fact that I was walking distance from Yankee Stadium, both the “House That Ruth Built” and the “House That Jeter Built”.  Every movie and tv show that was ever filmed in my borough, I’d be able to tell you exactly where that filming location was. Sadly, I’m getting a feeling that it’s time to leave the place I’ve called home.

One major drawback of The Bronx is that it’s ripe territory for greedy real estate agents to plunder. More people have lost their apartments here in the past 5 to 7 years than in the past 2 decades. Apartments that used to be $900 a month are now $2,500 a month, unless you qualify for section 8. Homeless shelters are popping up left and right, and people just can’t afford to live here anymore, unless they work 3 jobs and only get 3 hours of sleep a night. Currently, I’m living with my parents, and it’s a frustrating feeling to be in your mid-30s and having to answer to them. The job I’ve managed to hold onto for 5 years is driving me up the wall, and even with the city increasing minimum wage, the cost of living doesn’t get any easier, as the price for anything from groceries to entertainment just keeps rising.  I finally understand why so many of my friends who grew up here and raised their kids here have moved away.

A friend of mine had been trying to get me to move to Philadelphia for some time.  While living in the city of brotherly love has always been tempting, it wasn’t until now that it has become a necessary option. Living in The Bronx would mean that I’m stuck living with my dad and stepmother, and moving out to Long Island’s Suffolk County would mean living with my mother, as expensive as things have become out there. And as much as I love my mother, I can’t afford to have her doting over my life like Marie Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s a frustrating feeling when your folks keep asking when you’ll get a new girlfriend, yet quote Bible scripture about premarital sex and start fear mongering with images of hellfire and eternal damnation if you don’t do what they say.

To be honest, living with a friend rather than a parent or relative may just what I need right now, and living outside of New York may just be what my bank account needs.  As much as I love New York, I can’t keep up with things. And make no mistake, I love New York.  I love being about to take a bus into Harlem and walk 125th Street, whether it’s for DVD shopping or going to the Magic Johnson Theater. I love being able to take a train down into midtown or lower Manhattan, visiting comic stores, book stores, and pizzerias. I love being able to go down to Chinatown and visit every restaurant on Mott Street, even the back alley 4-for-$1 dumpling spot that no tourist has ever been to. I love being able to go arcade hopping, from Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade by NYU to the Barcade on St. Mark’s Place.  There’s so much to love about New York.

Yet, at the same time, every other thing I love about this city is vanishing, because of greedy real estate practices.  My favorite comic book store, St. Mark’s Comics, was forced to close after 35 years of business. My favorite retail store in Harlem, Kiss Electronics, was forced to close after decades of business. So many music stores, including my favorite record store, Second Hand Rose’s, had gone out of business. Even the landmark Katz’s Deli had been forced to shut down. Legacies that had shaped New York into the stuff movies and sitcoms were made of, forced to go out of business because, “The rent is too damn high.”  And politicians like Mayor Bill de Blasio, and his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, could care less. It was under Bloomberg that the city became so unaffordable, and when New Yorkers expected de Blasio to turn things around for the people, all we were left with was higher costs of living, and our only options being to stay in the city and become homeless, or leave the city for a more affordable quality of life.

Of all the places I’ve considered moving to, Philadelphia might be the most feasible. Of the times I’ve visited Philly, I’ve never really gotten to do what most people do down there. I’ve never gotten to see the Rocky statue from Rocky III, or run up the “Rocky Steps”.  I’ve never had a Philly cheesesteak made in Philly.  I’ve never even been to a Wawa’s! Even my late Uncle Lenny would tell me about the times he’d visit Philly just to see the Penn State Relays. My friend’s sister-in-law ran the Relays, and I never even got to see her win.  But most importantly, my best friend lives there, and has invited me down there with open arms. He had mapped out in his mind ever scenario to get me to move down there, and now, I’m doing the same.  While he’s offered me a place to stay, I’m still eyeing apartments down there as a plan B, so I have a contingency just in case. I’m researching what kinds of jobs I’d qualify for, in case my writing endeavors take longer to come to fruition. And if worse comes to worse, I’d be only 2 hours away from NYC, and 3 hours away from my mom’s home in Suffolk.

Change is hard, especially when you’re leaving the place you’ve called home all your life.  But if you’re to truly grow, change is necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in the same self-destructive cycle you’ve been in. So, I’m making a change.  I’m going to miss The Bronx when I’m finally gone, and I’m going to miss NYC, but I’ll have a friend waiting on the other end for me.

Of Fragile Egos and Swollen Eyes

One day ago, an 18-year-old woman from Manchester, England, was punched unconscious by a man outside of a club at 3:30am. The reason for the assault? She simply told the man, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” after he and his friends harassed her.

In this era of immediate gratification, where even dating has become a matter of “swipe right/swipe left”, have men forgotten how to be gentlemen? More importantly, have they completely forgotten that women have the right to say no?

Speaking as a man who has been rejected more than his fair share of times, yes, I’m aware how much it sucks to be shot down by the opposite sex, to have that girl you’re trying to approach say that she’s not interested. Yeah, it can bruise your self-esteem.

The right thing to do is dust yourself off and move on. You pick up the pieces, reflect on it for a moment, then move forward.

What you DON’T do is attack the woman who politely turned you down.

Because of that man’s fragile ego, a young woman is now disfigured for all of the world to see. And this isn’t the first time an assault like this has happened under the same circumstances.

I’ve heard from women who are afraid to socialize because of the fear of something like this happening, beautiful women who have to deal with random men trying to flirt with them, when all they want to do is go about their business. I’ve never been in those women’s shoes, but I absolutely understand their frustrations and fears.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video of the online gaming personality Sweet Anita, and in the video was a clip that hammers this point home. While she was playing an online game of Overwatch, a man harassed her by asking her to let him lick her p***y. When Anita politely declined, he continued to make obscene requests. When she finally had enough and insulted him, there were people in the comments section of the video saying that Anita was wrong to do so. My reply? “Well, let’s see how well any of you handle unwanted sexual harassment.” And the point was made.

No woman has to say “yes” to a man’s advances if she doesn’t want to. Every woman should have the right to say “no.”

(Link to reference article below)

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woman-man-turn-down-beaten-unconscious-manchester-not-interested-a9005661.html?amp

Burning Bridges

This past Sunday, I had to cut out the most toxic person in my life: the first girl I had ever loved. We had known each other for 20 years, and even though she and I only dated for a few months back in high school, she was insistent that I stay in her life as a friend.  Unfortunately for me, that friendship consisted of using me as an emotional doormat. I don’t know why I allowed it for so long.  Maybe the nostalgia of what we had, maybe the need to be needed.  Either way, it was a bridge that I had to burn.

Where does this begin?  Back in 1998.  We were introduced to a mutual friend during our high school days.  I was a dork (and admittedly, I still am for the most part), and she liked that.  So, things blossomed quickly between us, and she became my first girlfriend.  Unfortunately, her parents weren’t keen on me (she was Chinese, I’m Black), and it got to a boiling point to where her father and older sister threatened to call the police on me if they ever saw me with her again. The breakup was one of the saddest points in both of our lives.  Here was this girl who looked past the norms of high school crowds and saw me for me, and it was either continue to see her or risk ending up in handcuffs. So I ended it.  It pained me to see her in tears as she walked away.

Unbeknownst to me, my older brother had pretty much swooped in on the rebound and ended up sleeping with her behind my back.  That’s right.  The first girl I ever loved had slept with my older brother.  It took me years to try to look past that, and to this day, I still have trust issues with him.  (But that’s a story for another day.)  The only reason I ended up finding out about this was because she had coaxed him into telling me the truth.  So the toxic undertone of my bond with her had begun.

Years later, in the Myspace era, we found each other and ended up talking again.  She had been married and divorced, in one toxic relationship after another, all while being a single parent, and she saw me as a reminder of a more innocent time.  I ended up keeping in touch with her as an open ear, listening to her vent about one relationship after another.  Every so often, she’d tease the possibility of her and I being a couple again, only for her to find one reason or another to go back on her intentions.  At one point, she had pretty much blabbed about my ties with her to an old classmate of hers that I had never met before, telling her every detail from my penis size to the fact that she slept with my older brother.  I kept my composure through the entire ordeal, but once I got home, I sent her a message, letting her know how disrespectful that was. In effect, I cut my ties with her for the first time.

For a good four years, not only did I not hear from her, but I was in a relationship of my own, and it was good for a time. Funny enough, when I ended up breaking up with my ex, she was right there to swoop in and mend the bridge that I had burned between us. From that point on, it was a cycle of her toying with my emotions and my libido, and every effort I made to distance myself from her made her pull me back in to play me again and again.

One particular time, she talked about going to dinner with me.  I was reluctant, but then agreed.  Yet while I was making plans, picking out a restaurant that would be close enough to her, she was on a date with someone she had met on OkCupid. I was forced to cancel my plans with her because she had fallen in “love” on the fly. Funny enough, a friend from high school had invited me to a bake sale in order to cheer me up. Not even two weeks later, guess who showed up in a Facebook post at one of her baking events? That’s right, the manipulative ex.  Her presence in my life was becoming a serious source of stress. And yet, somehow, she played on my good nature and the nostalgia of what we once had, almost effortlessly convincing me that I was her reminder of a more pure time in her life.

This past Sunday was the last straw.  A week prior, I had sent a few friends, including her, a pic I had taken at a Bronx festival on the first weekend of the summer. She wanted me to call her, so I did. I expected just a quick chat, but it ended up becoming a 3-hour conversation where she dangled the possibility of marriage.  To be specific, she stated that if she couldn’t find a husband by the time she turned 40, she wanted me to marry her. She had ended another relationship, and I’m guessing she felt vulnerable again, needing me to build up her self-esteem and fuel her need to be adored.  And mind you, it wasn’t just a simple pact.  She wanted details. Who I’d invite, where it would take place, how many kids I wanted. Serious talk, not just playful conversation.  At the end of the conversation, I promised her I’d call the next day.  I did, and ended up on voicemail. One week, no reply.

Until this past Sunday.

As I was checking my Facebook, I saw a picture of her.  Back with the ex she had broken up with, with the caption, “He Loves Me!” under the pic. I had enough.  I texted her, “Btw, next time we speak, don’t get my hopes up.” She said that if I felt so hurt, don’t bother texting her.  My reply? “Good.  Consider yourself blocked. Goodbye.”

There was so much more I wanted to say, to vent to her how much she had hurt me over the two decades I had known her.  But if I did, she’d find a way, some way, to flip it all, play it as if she never realized it, and win me back as a “friend”.  No. I was sick and tired of being her emotional doormat.  My toxic bond with her was hurting me, emotionally and physically, and I had enough.  This was a bridge I had to burn for my own sake.

So here I am. My heart a bit more empty than before, but with a new beginning. I don’t care if I never find the one or fall in love again, as long as what’s left of my heart isn’t broken. Some have tried to build my hopes up, but honestly, I’m just sick and tired of it all.  Not everybody was meant to find that someone, and I’m learning that now.  They say that single people live shorter lives than someone married, but I don’t care. I don’t care, as long as I’m not stuck in a toxic cycle.  One of the last things she said to me was that if she married me, it wouldn’t be for love.  That’s proof enough for me that I’m better off alone.

Why Refurbished Electronics?

Every day, I’m updated with tech news about the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. Most of these items cost hundreds to thousands of dollars when bought brand new from major retailers like Best Buy and Target, or online outlets such as Amazon. For the longest, however, my electronics selection has been refurbished. With the exception of my cellphones (of which I purchase new, mid-range models at affordable prices), the selection of my laptops and tablets have been refurbished models, ever since I purchased my first ThinkPad in 2003. For the most part, while they aren’t technological juggernauts (I wouldn’t recommend gaming on a Compaq Presario), for every day tasks, they get the job done, especially with things such as word processing and (surprisingly) music production. So, why do I recommend getting your electronics refurbished?

Price

Refurbished electronics can save you a lot of money if you know what to look for and where to look. Before I knew about how to search for the best bargains in used and refurbished electronics, I was pretty much window shopping at your average mom & pop store along 6th Ave in Manhattan. These guys would sell trash-tier electronics for the price one could get a brand-new baseline laptop or tablet at Staples or Best Buy. Sure enough, I figured out how to shop around local spots and even conventions. My go-to was the Marketpro Computer Shows, back when they used to visit The Bronx and White Plains. You could get a decent laptop for anywhere from $100 to $300, and that was before getting optional hard drive and memory upgrades, which were also affordable.

In more recent years, I’ve been able to find even better bargains on websites such as eBay. I purchased my first Samsung Chromebook through an eBay retailer for $50, and it works like new, with an exceptional battery life. I also visited a Canadian retailer site, Refurbio (refurb.io), for my latest laptop purchase, a Lenovo ThinkPad R61, which only cost me $60 with full software and hard drive upgrades. I’ve been passing along the word to my family and friends even since, especially hearing how many of them have dealt with not being able to afford replacement tech on short notice.

Quality

People assume that refurbished products lack in quality, but trust me. In the right hands, refurbished tech can last as long as brand new products. Before my latest laptop purchase, I had purchased a Compaq Presario CQ56 laptop for $200 from a local pawnshop. Do you know how long that laptop lasted me? 10 years. That’s right, a full decade before I’d need a replacement. 10 years of photo editing, music production, MAME arcade action, and the occasional DVD viewing.However, don’t assume that refurbished tech doesn’t require maintenance. The reason my Presario lasted so long was because I knew how to care for it. That meant the proper anti-virus software, making sure I avoided overheating (external fan add-ons can be extremely helpful if you know the right type to use), and not doing anything that would push the hardware to its limits, such as online gaming. Don’t worry, there are better refurbished laptops and towers out there for gamers too, but they also need the proper TLC if you want longevity.

Refurbished tablets are also reliable if you know what to look for. 9 times out of 10, you’ll end up finding a solid refurbished tablet on eBay (though you can get even better deals on JemJem if you absolutely need an iPad). I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 through eBay for $60, and, despite an annoying air bubble in the screen, it works well. Don’t worry, though. Other refurbished tablets may have their visual blemishes, but when it comes to functionality, they’re as satisfactory as new tablets. Just be sure to read the retailer descriptions before any purchases.

Eco-friendly

When you use a refurbished product, believe it or not, you’re doing your part in preserving the ecosystem. New computers and tablets require new parts, which are made from newly made plastic, steel, and other substances that fill up our landfills. When you purchase a refurbished piece of tech, that’s one more laptop, tablet, or cellphone that doesn’t end up in a landfill. Electronic waste is harder to recycle because of the parts it takes to make up the entire machine. You wouldn’t recycle an LCD screen the same way you would recycle a CPU or a heat sink. So, when you buy a refurbished laptop, that’s one less motherboard, one less chassis, and one less keyboard in the junkyard.

Also, one person’s piece of old, dated hardware can come in handy for the next person. The $60 ThinkPad R61 that I’m using to update this very blog at this moment originally retailed at $1,200 upon its release in 2007. That alone hinted at the quality I was purchasing. And as it turns out, I’m not alone in discovering the benefits of this particular laptop’s longevity. After a quick search of YouTube vids, I found that quite a few computer science majors and tech repair specialists have purchased used ThinkPad R61s to upgrade and customize for their needs. So while it may not be the flavor of the month, that refurbished piece of tech may be the workhorse that you never realized you needed.

Keep This In Mind

Refurbished tech may not be for everyone, but it will benefit those who look into making the purchase. A few things to keep in mind: make sure that the retailer you’re buying your tech from is certified (i.e. Microsoft Certified, Apple Certified, etc.). Anytime you purchase a refurbished piece of tech that has been certified by its respective company, you are getting a seal of quality that you won’t get from a non-licensed third party. Also, make sure that a warranty is included, whether it’s a 90-day or 1-year warranty. If for any reason your product is defective or malfunctions after you purchase it, you want to make sure that it can be repaired or replaced at no cost to you. Finally, research the product before hand. The last thing you want to do is purchase a tablet that will explode in your hands or a laptop that will burn your lap. Look up articles or video reviews that will give you the gist of what you’re about to buy. In the end, quality is everything, refurbished or not.

Your Life, Your Goals, Your Time

On April 29th, one of my favorite directors, John Singleton, passed away after suffering a stroke the week prior. At the age of 24, he was the youngest director and the first Black American director nominated for an Academy Award for his now-classic directoral debut, Boyz N Da Hood (1991).  The next 27 years of his life, he spent help pave the way for Black filmmakers with directoral efforts such as Poetic JusticeHigher LearningRosewood, the 2000 reboot of ShaftBaby Boy, and other movies, not to mention his efforts as an executive producer of projects such as Hustle & FlowBlack Snake Moan, and the FX television series, Snowfall. All before his death at 51.

A month prior, Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle was tragically murdered in front of one of his privately-owned retail stores. He had built his musical career with a series of mixtapes, one of them an infamous mixtape that he charged $200 per unit that generated waves of hype. He had done so much independently, by the time Atlantic Records approached him for a record deal, he had the option to refuse and stay independent. Instead, he agreed to a distribution deal that gave him complete creative control. He was also an avid business entrepreneur, opening stores in his own community, and a vocal supporter of the STEM program, in efforts to bring science, technology and mathematics courses to underserved communities. He had done more by the age of 33 than most people do by the age of 60.

Why do I bring up these two tragic deaths of men who have lived extraordinary lives?  Because there are so many of us approaching these ages who have not taken the opportunity to live out our dreams.  We are constrained by work, among other circumstances, and have put our own dreams on the back burner for the sake of our day-to-day. It has brought so many of us to the point of saying “I can’t do it” when we revisit our old dreams. Some of us say that we’re too old for one dream or another, others look at the financial side of things, the cost seemingly outweighing the reward. But for your own sake, don’t give up on your dreams.

If you believe you’re too old for a certain dream, there are people out there in their 40’s taking their first martial arts class, people in their 50’s taking their first art classes, even an 80-year-old grandmother in Japan who moonlights as a DJ after taking DJ-ing classes.  If you believe that money is an issue, there are people building careers as percussionists with nothing but wooden boxes or plastic buckets. And don’t assume you need the most expensive equipment to make your dream happpen. Affordable alternatives are always being made available; all you have to do is Google the right term and click on the right site. And if you believe you don’t have the time to pursue your goals, all you need is at least 10 to 20 minutes a day to make it happen, just enough time to make gradual process.

Don’t let your goals wither up and fade away. Use the time in your life to make a difference for yourself. You’ll thank yourself in the long run for not giving up.